The unleashing of Kelly Lee Owens’ debut brought with it an echo of familiarity - we’d heard this voice before. Peppered throughout Daniel Avery’s stellar LP Drone Logic are her weightless vocals, barely even a whisper on the minimal mid-album rattler Naïve Response. Though taking up but a small fraction of the album’s overall airtime, her impact is profound as she gracefully lifts Avery’s techno pulses into softer, spacier realms. In 2017, Owens brought her voice firmly into the spotlight. With only one feature in the form of Jenny Hval on Anxi., this self-titled release marked her signature blissful vocals and brilliantly sleek productions as emphatically hers.
Kelly Lee Owens floats effortlessly across a multitude of atmospheres, its ambient techno skeleton softened by smooth dub and lulling shoegaze. Where Lucid is an ethereal, dream-pop excursion into the stratosphere, Evolution brings forth a sparse but sensuous club-cut a single track later. Yet even in the depths of the album’s shadowy drones and undulating basslines (evoking the sounds of co-workers Avery, Ghost Culture and Erol Alkan), they gently caress rather than knock you out cold.
Such is the ‘healing’ nature of Owens’ output, as it has been so labelled across the board this year. A nurse in her previous occupation, many parts of KLO feel medicinal as hypnotic bells and low frequencies alleviate you into a meditative state; album closer 8 is (quite unmistakably) a gong bath of a deep buzz under slowly-crashing waves of synths. When you awake on the other side you feel cleansed, enriched. Though tender and beguiling to its very core, it's one of the mightiest releases of the year.
Words: Josie Roberts